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Spelling champ credits reading

Seventh-grader William Hoffman said he struggled most with the word "diadem," but proudly took home first place from the Twin Bluff Middle School spelling bee Friday afternoon.

Hoffman, who claims he was nervous through the first rounds of competition, got all 50 words correct on the preliminary test that was given schoolwide. He believes his good spelling comes from being an avid reader.

Hoffman's goal was to just make it to the second round. Last year he was bumped out after the first round.

He took the lead after spelling "fulsomely" correctly, and Shane Ferrin took second when he misspelled "barrette."

The race for third continued long after most students were headed home. The placement was determined after words such as "paralysis," "castanets," "exonerate," "reticence," "pavilion," and "marionette" were spelled between the two competitors. Eleven words total were completed before Cameron Beebe won by spelling "alabaster" correctly. Ann Betcher came in fourth after missing "pavilion."

Three advance

The top three advance to regionals Feb. 25 in Rochester. Hoffman expects that competition to be much harder.

"They surprise themselves and then they get really competitive," said seventh-grade dean Connie Hanson. David Harris, Nancy Harris and Hanson all judged the competition with Patricia Sween as the pronouncer.

The spelling bee began with 39 students who qualified by scoring well on a written test.

Getting ready

For the oral competition, the students waited patiently on the auditorium stage as they quietly whispered with their neighbors, tapping a foot or two with the jitters.

David Harris attempted to ease minds with the riddle: "What do Alexander the Great and Winnie the Pooh have in common?" The answer was quickly determined and called out by a student, "They have the same middle name."

The rules were then clearly explained by Hanson. Listen to the pronouncer say the word and put it in a sentence. Write down the word if needed. Then say the word, spell it, and say it again. Students were able to ask for a repetition of the word, the definition, the language of origin or its part of speech.

A practice round was done to make sure all rules were understood.

No second chances

Once the contest began, no second chances were granted unless a mistake was made by the pronouncer or a judge. Many students who were careful with writing the word before spelling it outloud advanced to the next round. Multisyllable words, however, were easy to miss.

Nine students were eliminated from the first round, two were spelled out in the second round and five in the third round.

Round four was the toughest with 12 students struggling with words such as "committal," "mercurial" and "bolero."

Ten students remained for the fifth round, which led to the elimination of six. They were challenged with "valence," "celestial," "corrugated" and "sphinx."

The remaining four contestants were all awarded prizes. The Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee was sponsored by the Republican Eagle and the Twin Bluff Parent Advisory Committee.

Erika Hahn can be reached at or 388-2914, ext. 124.